This week I’m chatting with Danish international dressage rider Maria Mejlgaard Jensen. Twenty-one year old Maria has represented her country at all levels and currently is part of the Danish under 25 dressage team. Read on to learn more about Maria, her ambitions, and top tips for success
Tell us a little about you and your horsesMy name is Maria Mejlgaard Jensen, I’m twenty-one years old and a Danish dressage rider. In terms of sport, I have been a part of the Danish Equestrian Team for youth dressage since 2015, both as a pony rider, junior and young rider, and I’m currently a part of the U25 team. When I finished high school in 2020, I started working as a rider for my trainer of 10 years, Martin Hussmann. Unfortunately, I was in a riding accident in 2021, where I broke my spine, 6 ribs and punctured a lung, which put my riding on hold for a period. I have now fought my way back on horseback and the national team again, most recently by winning individual bronze at the Danish Championship for U21 as well as gold at the Danish Championship for teams last summer and competed at international level for U25 this spring. The plan is now to start up more and more independently from my home just outside of Roskilde, Denmark and in that way develop my riding career even more. At the moment I have a few horses. I know you’re not supposed to have favourites, but my special one is Antango Du Feuillard (in the everyday also known as Anton). Apart from being an amazing dressage horse, he has the biggest personality, loving and caring but with a sparkle in his eyes. He’s my heart horse.
How did your horses come into your life?Mine and Anton paths crossed by a total coincidence. My sister was looking for a horse at the time, and went all around Denmark scouting horses. This one place she tried this horse, a stallion with huge power and yet elegant. They came back home and showed me the video and that was when I was sold. You can even hear in the background of the video, both my mom and my trainer saying “That is just the horse for Maria”. I went to try him myself and I’ve been in love with this horse ever since.
When and where do you ride?I’m lucky to have all my horses at home. My family and I live on a yard just outside of Roskilde, Denmark, where we can host about 20 horses. Once we only had the space for 6 small ponies but over the years, we’ve expanded more and more towards what we have today. Since my accident I’ve been working part time in an office. The rest of my time I’ve been riding as much as I could. The past few months I’ve gotten more horses into riding, and I’ve had a lot of students, so I actually just quit my office job and am now planning on riding full time. And I’m so excited about it!
How did you start riding?I grew up on a farm, where both my mom and my sister already rode when I made into to the world. I first started riding at the local riding school and then I had an old Shetland pony at home that threw me off once in a while. I got my first own pony when I was about seven years old and that’s when everything took off.
What you and your horses currently working on?The art of Grand Prix – and damn, this is difficult. But I love every step of the road.
What do you love about riding?I love how you can connect and communicate with an animal not talking your language and 10 times your size. It’s all build on trust between horse and rider and I love that.
What you would you like to be doing in the future and do you have any goals?My dream is to work with horses; educate, compete, teach, purchase and sales. Competition wise I’ve always dreamed of competing at the Olympics and winning an individual medal at a championship like the Europeans or the Worlds.
Have you ever had to deal with nerves in riding?Yes, not often but it happens occasionally. Especially when there’s something at stake or I’m stressed beforehand.
How do you deal with them?I’ve been trying to teach myself to express my nerves as excitement rather than nervousness. In that way the nerves actually bring positivity and is a good thing.
Your Top TipBuild yourself a stable and trustworthy team because you can’t do this alone. Even though horseback riding is a single sport, there’s always some people on the side helping and wishing you the best; those people are your team, be thankful for them.
Down the Centre Line
Who would be your dream horse to ride?Glamourdale – do I need to say more? That extended canter must be closest you get to flying!
Who is your equestrian hero?My sister – we’ve been all in this together from the very start and even though we might argue sometimes I still admire how we can share with each other whenever it’s needed – both when it’s about horses and when it’s everything else.
If you could have 5 people to dinner, who would they be?Tough one… But I think this must be my list:
- Charlotte Fry – gotta ask about tricks for that extended canter.
- Severo Jurado Lopez – I think he was the first rider I looked up to. I love how he can make every horse look so powerful yet elegant.
- Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein – I’ve been riding a few sessions with Nathalie, and she really delivers some golden tricks.
- Patrik Kittel – I think Patrik could serve the smiles of the dinner table, he always gives such a positive vibe.
- Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour – she really speaks for herself, doesn’t she?